Not the right kind of paper to report both sides? About that story on fired Catholic teacher

Just last month, I highlighted a quasi-piece of reporting by the Washington Post on a pastor "lighting into" President Donald Trump with Vice President Mike Pence sitting in a front pew.

I noted that it's often difficult these days — even in the Post — to tell what's supposed to be real news and what's simply clickbait and/or aggregation.

Well, here we go again ...

A reader emailed us about a new Post story that raises some of the same "What is this?" questions as the earlier piece.

The latest story — with the headline "‘Not the right kind of Catholic’: Private schoolteacher fired days after same-sex wedding" — prompted a GetReligion-style analysis by the reader who emailed us.

I thought I might share highlights of the reader's thoughts and respond to each.

From the reader:

The article is about a teacher fired from a Catholic school after she married her same sex partner. The opening few paragraphs make it clear whose side the writer is on by carefully describing the upcoming wedding, then dropping the bombshell of her being fired.

Certainly, the lede is sensitive to the teacher's situation and seems designed to evoke a response from readers. But honestly, I don't have a major problem with the lede. It's the rest of the story and the much-delayed and incomplete reporting on the other side that concern me, from a journalistic perspective.

More from the reader:

I'm trying to figure out what sources were used besides social media and other reports. As they couldn't reach the teacher in question and mainly quote other sources. The firing is described as a "one-two punch," again making clear whose side the writer is on. 

Yes, the story relies heavily on social media and other news reports. It's more aggregation than actual reporting. And yes, the "one-two punch" description does nothing to give any reader the impression the Post intends to present this case impartially.

More from the reader:

The official response from the archdiocese finally comes near the end, noting something that the teacher signed agreeing to abide by church teaching. No specifics on what that contract said, though.

Yes, the actual facts — including whether the teacher violated a written contract and, if so, knew she was doing so — seem secondary to the Post. This article is more about clickbait than fair journalism. 

More from the reader:

An outraged parent gets the final say, with no quotes from parents that supported the decision (were there none?). Considering the article says about a dozen parents were upset (without stating exactly what action they took besides what sounds like holding a press conference), I'm not sure why this is in the Washington Post given it happened in Miami. Maybe a some of the Get Religion folks could bring some light or thought to that.

Good questions.

As for why the Post reported on this, please refer back to the earlier clickbait references. The paper obviously sees this as the kind of story that will get more clicks — and thus, more eyeballs. Eyeballs translate into advertising revenue.

Now, the question remains: Is this journalism?

It's certainly not the caliber of reporting and fairness that I'd expect from someone such as the Post's religion writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey, a former GetReligion contributor. At the same time, the Post's main Twitter account shared the link with 12 million followers — so should we at GetReligion analyze it as real news and apply the same criticisms as we normally would or not?

You tell me.

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